Year of Alabama History




April 18, 1853















April 12, 1887










April 13, 1813








April 14, 1955









April 15, 1956








April 16, 1979




















April 18, 1831









William Rufus King

This Week in Alabama History

April 12 - 18




Featured Event:

William Rufus King, Alabama’s leading nineteenth-century politician, dies in Dallas County. King was a member of the state’s first constitutional convention in 1819 and served for many years in the U.S. Senate and as Minister to France in the 1840s. In 1852 King was elected vice-president of the U.S. on the Democratic ticket with Franklin Pierce. King took the oath of office in Havana, Cuba, where he had gone to recuperate from ill health. King’s health did not improve and he returned to his plantation in Dallas County to die, never actually serving as vice-president.


Other Events this Week

Alabama industrialist Henry DeBardeleben and his partners sell the first lots for the new city of Bessemer. Located twelve miles southwest of Birmingham and named after Henry Bessemer, the British inventor of the Bessemer steel process, the community was envisioned as a steelmaking center. Within a year Bessemer had a population of 3,500 and boasted a large industrial complex.


Surrounded, with little hope of support from his government, Captain Cayetano Perez, commander of the Spanish forces at Ft. Charlotte in Mobile, meets with General James Wilkinson of the United States. Two days later U.S. forces take possession of Ft. Charlotte and Spanish Mobile.


In a ceremony at Huntsville High School, Wernher von Braun and 102 other German-born scientists, technicians, and family members based at Redstone Arsenal become American citizens. Recruited to the United States at the end of World War II, the scientists conducted rocket research crucial to the development of the U.S. space program.


A Sunday afternoon tornado touches down in western Jefferson County, killing 25 people and injuring 200, most of whom lived in the Stacey Hollow and McDonald's Chapel communities. Rated an F4, the tornado traveled 20 miles, was 300 yards wide, and destroyed or damaged more than 350 homes.


Alabama native Edward O. Wilson wins the Pulitzer Prize in the General Non-Fiction category for his book, On Human Nature. Wilson was born in Birmingham, and lived in Mobile, Brewton, and Decatur, before attending the University of Alabama, where he studied biology. He earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University and went on to an internationally recognized career in the sciences, receiving more than sixty other awards and honors, including another Pulitizer Prize in 1991 for The Ants.


Listen: Click the play button below to hear Archives Staff discuss this event on Alabama Public Radio.


The University of Alabama formally opens its doors. Fifty-two students were accepted that first day, but by the end of the session the student body had swelled to nearly one hundred. The faculty was made up of four men including the Reverend Alva Woods, who had been inaugurated president of the university on April 12, 1831.